There are community boundaries, then there are community boundaries…

There’s a heated debate going on between some of our local residents about what constitutes the community boundary.  It’s been brought about by the local council’s need to develop a new Local Plan. The council would love to stuff as much new housing as it can into small villages all over the borough, either by relaxing planning rules within the village boundaries, or ear-marking large chunks of countryside and green fields and reserving them to receive thousands of new homes at some indeterminate point in the future, when other ear-marked development land is used up, or by appending chunks of the Green Belt to communities by extending their boundaries to include such land. Continue reading

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Caught up in the final rush

A neighbour kindly sent me a copy of their considered response to the consultation on Guildford Borough Council’s draft Local Plan and a very trenchant document it is.  This is the “real” consultation, where residents’ responses will go forward with the rest of the much-criticised ‘evidence base’ to the planning inspector who examines in public the submitted plan next May (2015), not the sham consultation last year, used by the council to draw the sting of those motivated to respond and then manipulate the evidence base where politically convenient.  Now, residents’ comments really do matter.  If you write, you have the right to request being heard at the examination in public and put your points personally and directly to the planning inspector.

My neighbour had read the 19 policies in the draft document, picked out the Site Policies relevant to Normandy and Flexford, gone back to the ‘evidence base’ documents referenced in the policy notes, taken the trouble to re-read all 207 paragraphs the National Policy Planning Framework, noted the letters of ministerial guidance issued by the various incumbents of the planning portfolios over the last 18 months and also taken the trouble to be aware of the decisions flowing through the courts that modify interpretation of the NPPF.  This is the dedication being shown again by thousands of incensed residents that believe this council has been and is being secretive, misleading and duplicitous in the development and presentation of this plan.

When faced with a council where the lead councillor for the Local Plan process has had to step down from the Executive Committee of the council as a result of being arrested, bailed and appearing in court, facing seven charges variously reported in the press as including forgery, fraud by false representation, obtaining monetary advantage by deception and wilfully pretending to be a barrister; where the Head of Planning came back from holiday in August, sat down at her desk and promptly resigned; and where the deputy leader of the council’s Executive Committee has resigned recently “due to pressure of increased work commitments outside the council”, residents cannot be blamed for expressing deep dissatisfaction with the governance of the borough and the management of the Local Plan process.  Something is rotten in this borough.

What did my neighbour write in his letter to the council planning department, outlining his rejection to the potential ‘concreting over’ of Normandy and Flexford? Perhaps you would like to read for yourself… Continue reading

Safeguarded land: a pernicious and horrifying prospect

Safeguarded for who and for what?  It sounds so nice and cosy; oh, the land in my village is being “safeguarded”. Beware the weasel words of the clever drafter of the National Policy Planning Framework [NPPF], he’s out to fool you on behalf of this government.

The NPPF Para 85 gives the local planning authority [LPA] the right to declare land as “safeguarded” during the Local Plan process, so what does it really mean? It means a faceless planning officer, in cahoots with their paid-for lackeys the planning consultants, taking a pen and drawing a line on a map around parcels of Green Belt land, effectively re-drawing the Green Belt boundary, extracting them from the Green Belt and declaring them “safeguarded”.   Continue reading

Choices, choices

In retrospect, would you believe a minister of the Crown, a judge sitting in the Court of Appeal, or a senior council officer?  When it came to Guildford Borough Council planning team trying to justify their evidence base in front of the borough’s own Scrutiny Committee, all bets were off.  The ten individuals, to whom the council deigned to give air time for 3 minutes each to raise their pros and cons (mostly cons) on the veracity of the evidence base, certainly had to sit in silence and listen to a determined attack on their legitimate concerns and so here is a bit of a response to the thorny question of Green Belt protection. Continue reading

Housing Numbers

Very thorough analysis that gives insight into why there is a myriad of different potential targets. Although originally posted in October 2013 and therefore reflective of the 2009 SHMA that was available to the 2013 Guildford draft Local Plan, it raises serious questions that the new SHMA (December 2013) has failed to address.

Guildford Plan

Guildford Borough Council’s paper “How many new homes?” sets out to provide a range of different approaches to calculating housing numbers between 2011 and 2031.  The resulting picture is a potentially confusing one with estimates of NEED ranging from 181 homes per year to 1,066 new households per year.  This seems to be akin to a game of ‘pin the tail on the donkey’ – a blindfold stab in the dark.

Before going on to the paper itself, it might be helpful to review the requirement placed on us by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) 2012.

NPPF (Section 6) Delivering a wide choice of high quality homes

47. To boost significantly the supply of housing, local planning authorities should:

  • use their evidence base to ensure that their Local Plan meets the full, objectively assessed needs for market and affordable housing in the housing market area, as…

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Letter writing is a dying art

Here I am, posting on the blog again, bemoaning the fact that nowadays letter writing is rare and hand-written letters more so.  Much easier the electronic media to share what you want others to know via e-mail, social media posts and blog posts, instant message, texting, voice messaging.  Not so in the “Whitehall bubble”.  When a minister or MP wants to make a point and give it the stamp of authority, the air of ‘realpolitik’, seeming sincerity and something aimed at ‘you’, they resort to writing a letter on House of Commons or departmental headed notepaper.  Well, they don’t actually write it, but they do top and tail it with an indecipherable scrawl, a bit like a prescription handed to you by your GP, a palliative given to shut you up and get you out of the surgery, so they can concentrate on the next case. Continue reading

NPPF forces LPAs to abandon brownfield housing sites

Published in March 2013, a survey entitled “Local Planning at Risk: Is the NPPF delivering planning for people?“, carried out by the Local Government Information Unit [LGiU] in partnership with the National Trust, reveals that 60% of the local planning authority senior local government politicians and officials surveyed “disagree or strongly disagree that the introduction of the NPPF has had a positive impact on their ability to deliver a Local Plan that reflects local concerns and priorities”.  Furthermore, respondents to the survey suggested that “the Planning Inspectorate, through the examination process, is prioritising development over the views of local people”. Continue reading